12/10/07 3:31 PM ET
Mailbag: Will acquisitions pay off?
Beat reporter Bill Ladson answers Nats fans' questions
By Bill Ladson / MLB.com
With that in mind, fans want to know how much better the Nationals are. Here are some answers to your questions.
What are your thoughts on the recent acquisitions made by the Nats in the last 10 days? How improved is the team now that they have acquired Milledge and Dukes?
-- Pat G., Gatineau, QC. Canada
I give general manager Jim Bowden a standing ovation. The team has improved offensively. Milledge and Dukes are significant upgrades over Ryan Church, who I think will do well in New York, and Nook Logan. I like Boone because he can help Dmitri Young when it comes to leadership in the clubhouse.
Bowden is not done. He needs to acquire a catcher, more starting pitching and bench strength.
Will Milledge and Dukes adhere to the team's rules and improve their character? Will Dukes and Milledge take advantage of Young's amazing comeback mentality and devotion to the team?
-- Brian W., McLean, Va.
I can't predict the future, but I am confident that Young and manager Manny Acta will turn Dukes around. Their calming influence will do wonders for Dukes.
As far as Milledge is concerned, I agree with Acta. I don't see what Milledge has done to be considered a trouble maker. I thought it was great that he gave the fans high fives after he hit his first Major League home run.
I just don't understand the Brian Schneider trade. All I hear is how great he is as a defensive catcher and how great he was at handling the numerous pitchers the Nats had last year. Why did they trade him anyway?
-- Bob D., Chantilly, Va.
I see what you are saying, but in my opinion the Nationals needed much more from Schneider. They need a hitter and a leader. Schneider has regressed as a hitter the last two years and he has never been a leader in terms of solving problems in the clubhouse. I also believe his days as an everyday player are behind him.
His temper tantrum is one of the reasons I've called the 2006 Nationals the worst team I've covered. When things were going wrong on any given day in '06 and '07, there was a good chance Schneider would be in the computer room or went home instead of facing the media. This team did not have a leader until Young came along.
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When he faces the New York media, it would be nice to finally hear Schneider say that he hasn't performed up to his capabilities the last two years.
You have recently written that the Nats don't have anything in the Minors to help them at leadoff or behind the plate. What happened to outfielder Brandon Watson and catcher Brandon Harper? If the team's goal is to develop its own talent, then why not give some of these guys a chance to play?
-- Keith W. Mooers, N.Y.
Both players are Minor League free agents. Even if they were available, I don't think they would be given a chance. Watson and Harper are considered no more than backup players.
I was curious what you thought the future of Justin Maxwell is with the Nationals?
-- Christian W., Brooklyn, NY
He will be in Spring Training, but I think it will be a long shot that he makes the team. The team wants him to develop in the Minor Leagues. He most likely will start the season in Double-A Harrisburg. Maxwell didn't help himself by under performing in the Arizona Fall League.
Since the Nats are looking for a catcher to fill the gap between now and the time that Flores is ready, what is the possibility that Javy Lopez could be given a shot? Lopez was an excellent catcher with the Braves and he seems to be the type of player that could contribute if given a second chance.
-- Conrad S., Springfield, Va.
Some of those Braves pitchers would disagree that Lopez was a great catcher. I don't see Lopez getting a chance with the Nationals. He hasn't played since the 2006 season.
What are the chances of the Nats keeping Felipe Lopez?
-- Andrew C., Atlanta
That's a good question. I think the Nationals will look to trade Lopez. I don't see him beating out Cristian Guzman and Ronnie Belliard at shortstop and second base, respectively. How much will the Nationals get for Lopez? I don't know, because he is coming off one of his worst seasons.
Why is the organization so committed to Ryan Langerhans? He has very little upside and with the Nats already having an abundance of outfielders, where does he fit in?
-- Will S., Reston, Va.
I think it's a stretch to say that the team is committed to Langerhans. They are going to give him a chance to be the fifth outfielder. It also helps that he is a left-handed hitter and has a great work ethic.